Posy rings: Put a ring on it

By sarah madden, blog editor on 14 Feb 2014
A perfect token of mutual fidelity and love, the gimmel ring (from the Latin ‘gemellus’, meaning ‘twin’) is made from two interlocking gold bands with a bezel shaped like two clasped hands. The message of love is reinforced by a small heart on the uppermost hand and by a hidden message on the inside of each ring. When the rings are separated the message is revealed. One reads ‘AS HANDES DOE SHUT’, and the other, ‘SO HART BE KNIT.’

A gimmel ring (from the Latin ‘gemellus’, meaning ‘twin’) made from two interlocking gold bands with a bezel shaped like two clasped hands. When the bands are separated the message is revealed. One reads ‘AS HANDES DOE SHUT’, and the other, ‘SO HART BE KNIT.’

Expressing love with jewellery has been a tradition long adopted by lovers in London, and you have only to delve into our collection of ‘posy rings’ to see this reflected throughout the ages.

These delightful gold finger rings are defined by a short inscription (a ‘posy’, ‘posie’ or ‘poesy’) blazoned on their surface. With romantic quotations inscribed on the ring’s inner surface, they were most popular among courting lovers between the 15th and 17th centuries.

A plain gold posy ring inscribed internally in cursive script: 'Lets fix our love in god above'.

A plain gold posy ring inscribed internally in cursive script: ‘Lets fix our love in god above’.

Whereas romantic inscriptions during the middle ages would be found etched onto the outside of finger rings, by the 16th century these private declarations of love showed up on the inside of the ring, ‘next the finger, not to be seen of him that holdeth you by the hand.’ (Art of English Poesie)

By the 17th century, ‘poesies’ were cropping up everywhere and adorned all sorts of objects – not just rings but on knives, spoons and even girdles and trenchers! Books like The Academy of Complements or A new way of Wooing, published in London, were plundered by jewellers and their customers alike, searching for pithy declarations of love that would impress the ring’s wearer.

A gold posy ring with a D-sectioned hoop, floral decoration on the shoulders and a bezel set with opal. Dating from the 17th century, the hoop is inscribed internally in cursive script: 'In God & thee my joy shall be R.H'.

A gold posy ring with a D-sectioned hoop, floral decoration on the shoulders and a bezel set with opal. Dating from the 17th century, the hoop is inscribed internally in cursive script: ‘In God & thee my joy shall be R.H’.

Once used as wedding rings, and even tokens of memorial, posy rings began to go out of fashion by the end of the 18th century. While today’s trends still see people opting for clothes and jewellery emblazoned with designer names and mottoes, these words are now so often chosen by designers rather than by poets, writers or individuals themselves.

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